Noted university researchers vote to join labor union


New York unions are often associated with people who are working in blue collar industries and join forces to prevent their employers exploiting them. Hard hats, picket signs and demands for better wages and benefits are the perceptions that appear in the minds of many as the words "labor union" and "collective bargaining" are said. However, any group of workers who seek an improved situation on the job can think about union representation. Since union members are in a stronger position to negotiate than individuals are, it is imperative to have legal help throughout the process - especially when deciding whether to join a union or not.

Researchers in the postdoctoral program at Columbia University in New York have unionized with United Automobile Workers (UAW). This is the first of its kind in the U.S. for a private university. 68 percent of the postdocs - of which there are more than 2,000 in total - voted to join. In turn, UAW stated that it wants a new contract for them. These individuals have gotten a Ph.D. and work on various projects for the school, many of whom are seeking to understand and find solutions for illnesses, conditions and global issues. The goal of the unionization is to improve their salaries to correlate with how much it costs to live in New York and to have better policies to address sexual harassment.

Collective bargaining is difficult and in many instances, the workers are limited in their leverage. This is true for many jobs where the employer might be under the impression that the workers do not have alternatives to force concessions. When a group joins a union, it is critical to have legal assistance in addition to the foundation that the union itself provides. Understanding the law, how to ensure there is full compliance and upstanding behavior on the part of the employers, and dealing with issues that inevitably crop up is crucial. Every union needs legal help.

Postdocs are often pigeonholed as people who are working at the whim of the university or the entity they are employed by. The work they do is important for society and they have rights. Exercising their right to unionize is a wise step to get benefits, wages and more that they need in their endeavors. A law firm that is experienced in assisting union members regardless of the industry in which they work can be integral to getting the maximum benefits and wages.

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